‘Silence’ is potent and raw cinema

By Angela Stevens

“Silence” is the new Martin Scorsese film that has the intensity of “Goodfellas” and the bleakness of “Raging Bull.”

The film is about two Jesuit priests in the 1600s named Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) who go on a mission to find the whereabouts of a priest named Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who is said to have denounced God.

“Silence” begins as Garupe and Rodrigues learn the news of Ferreira denouncing God.

While they both insist that the news is slander, an older priest confirms that it is true.

Although both men are unconvinced, they play along and agree to find Ferreira so that they can redeem his soul and bring him back to Christ.

The last that anyone had heard of Ferreira’s whereabouts were that he was living in Japan as a missionary for the peasant population.

Garupe and Rodrigues seek the help of a Japanese man named Kichijiro (Tadanobu Asano) to bring them to Japan.

During that era, it was illegal to be a Christian in Japan, creating potential difficulties for their mission.

The two men hear about the many Christians and priests being tortured and put to death for their faith.

Kichijiro and his family fell victim to these attacks.

His family members were all part of the Christian faith. Once discovered, his family was bound, placed on top of each other and burned alive due to their refusal to step on a block depicting Jesus in order to prove that they were not Christian.

Kichijiro was the only one of his family to shame God and step on Jesus. He stated that even many years after his family had died, he can still smell their burning flesh and hear their screams.

When the two priests arrive in Japan, they are surprised to be greeted with joy by local peasants. They discover that the village in which they arrive is a Christian village that practices their religion in secret during the night.

The villagers feel blessed for having met these men and most of them are willing to do anything to ensure their survival. Eventually, someone discloses the whereabouts of the priests to the authorities, and the men and villagers are tested in the harshest ways.

The film shows scenes of gruesome torture, decapitation, drowning and murder. After witnessing these horrible atrocities, Rodrigues questions whether there even is a God.

At the start of the film, the men prayed to be tested as Jesus was, but they never expected to watch others be tested for their beliefs. For the priests, this proved worse than enduring the torture themselves, forcing them to carry these memories and guilt for the rest of their lives.

A scene earlier in the film shows Garupe and Rodrigues walking down many steps. The camera angle alters the perspective and the audience can no longer tell the difference between what is up and what is down.

The view simply looks as though the priests are walking along paths of their own choosing. This cinematography provides a metaphor for the path that the two men are following in the film; their path is neither right nor wrong. It is simply the path that they have chosen for themselves.

A fascinating aspect of the film is that its main focus appears to be Christianity, but it refrains from feeling as if the film is preaching the religion to the audience. Anyone of any faith -or without faith- would be able to sympathize with these characters and the horrific pain they must endure.

This demonstrates how the film is essentially about faith, not religion. It is not only about their faith in religion, but in proving to themselves that they can endure what they must for what they believe in.

Overall, the movie proves to be a great film for its compassion and kindness in the face of horror.

“Silence” is rated R for some disturbing violent content and is playing in theaters now.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

‘Silence’ movie poster

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